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Electric van production is set to soar as Tata Group, the owner of Jaguar Land Rover, announced this week it will invest £4bn to build an electric battery gigafactory in the UK.

The factory, which is set to begin production in 2026, will be one of Europe’s largest battery cell manufacturing sites, according to Tata, producing 40 gigawatt hours (GWh) of batteries a year, enough to power hundreds of thousands of electric cars and vans.

Energy security secretary, Grant Shapps, said the factory could be producing half the electric vehicle batteries needed in the UK by 2030. The factory is expected to be built in Somerset and create 4,000 new jobs.

The news follows the collapse of Britishvolt in January this year, a gigafactory start up that planned to open a factory in Northumberland.

The only other gigafactory in the UK is the Envision plant in Sunderland, which is owned by a Chinese corporation and supplies Nissan. Envision plans to expand its site to produce 38GWh, up from 11GWh.

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Natarajan Chandrasekaran, chair of Tata Sons, said: “Our multi-billion-pound investment will bring state-of-the-art technology to the country, helping to power the automotive sector’s transition to electric mobility, anchored by our own business, JLR.

“With this strategic investment, the Tata Group further strengthens its commitment to the UK, alongside our many companies operating here across technology, consumer, hospitality, steel, chemicals and automotive.”

Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), welcomed the news. He said: “This is a shot in the arm for the UK automotive industry, our economy and British manufacturing jobs, demonstrating the country is open for business and electric vehicle production.

“It comes at a critical moment, with the global industry transitioning at pace to electrification, producing batteries in the UK is essential if we are to anchor wider vehicle production here for the long term.

“We must now build on this announcement by promoting the UK’s strengths overseas, ensuring we stay competitive amid fierce global pressures and do more to scale up our EV supply chain.”

Added Ben Nelmes, chief executive of independent transport research organisation New Automotive: "This is a welcome vote of confidence in the UK's plans to transition to electric vehicles. Ambitious climate policies such as ministers' plans for a zero emission vehicle mandate should make the UK a more inviting investment opportunity and help to further reduce the cost of electric cars and vans for motorists and businesses.

"The government should build on this success and bring forward a strategy for battery manufacturing so that Britain can benefit from new green technologies." 

More gigafactories could be on the cards if Labour wins the next General Election. The party is promising to invest in eight gigafactories, creating "80,000 additional jobs" and to accelerate the roll-out of public charging points.

For more stories tracking the industry journey to decarbonisation see our new Freight Carbon Zero website.